Social and Economic Networks in Early Massachusetts
Marsha L. Hamilton
Social and Economic Networks in Early Massachusetts
Marsha L. Hamilton
“This important work delivers a more focused view of the role of ‘outsiders’ in molding the evolving Massachusetts society. Researchers and graduate students will find the bibliography helpful.”
- Sample Chapters
By mining court, town, and company records, letters, and public documents, Hamilton uncovers the impact that these immigrants had on the colony, not only by adding to the diversity and complexity of society but also by developing strong economic networks that helped bring the Bay Colony into the wider Atlantic world. These groups opened up important mercantile networks between their own homelands and allies, and by creating their own communities within larger Puritan networks, they helped create the provincial identity that led the colony into the eighteenth century.
“This important work delivers a more focused view of the role of ‘outsiders’ in molding the evolving Massachusetts society. Researchers and graduate students will find the bibliography helpful.”
“Written with great precision and immaculately produced by the Pennsylvania State University Press, this debut monograph is a most welcome addition to early American social, economic, and cultural history.”
Marsha L. Hamilton is Associate Professor of History at the University of South Alabama.
British and Atlantic Networks in Early Massachusetts
In November 1693, the choleric governor of Massachusetts, Sir William Phips, witnessed an altercation on Boston’s waterfront. Upon inquiry, he was told by Benjamin Faneuil, a Huguenot merchant who had arrived in the Bay Colony in 1689, that Jahleel Brenton, the customs collector, had ordered the seizure of a trading shallop from Port Royal, Nova Scotia, and all of its goods. Faneuil claimed that the seizure was based solely on the fact that the master and his crew were French, which he saw as unfair-but if true, it would put the master in violation of the Navigation Acts. Brenton and his deputies seemed to have strong legal grounds for the seizure. Nevertheless, an angry Phips exclaimed, "They are as good or better Englishmen then the Collector is, & let him seize them if he dare, if he doth I will break his head." Brenton’s deputies prudently decided not to pursue their orders.
Many issues lay behind this exchange. Phips had a quick temper; he was in fact recalled from office in 1694 in part because of his public beating of a captain in the Royal Navy. He had been involved in many earlier disputes with Brenton, largely over political power and the right to seize the goods of, and thereby profit from, violators of the trade laws. Phips was also trying to win support for his governorship among merchants and elites in Massachusetts and from royal officials in England. He hoped to expand trade with Acadia to consolidate his power in that region, as well as to please merchants and uphold the claim of English control over the territory. Enfolding Port Royal into New England’s orbit would secure Phips’s economic and political interests, and so political intrigues and rivalries were deeply entwined in this incident.
Phips’s comments also acknowledged, perhaps unconsciously, the changes that had taken place in Massachusetts society by the end of the seventeenth century. The commerce of coastal communities such as Boston and Salem had attracted merchants and sailors from throughout the Atlantic world within a dozen years of their settlement. Trade with England, of course, had sustained the colony in its earliest years, familiarizing sailors with the region and its potential products. By the early 1640s, however, Boston merchants sent wood and foodstuffs to the West Indies, Spain, and the Spanish and Portuguese islands in the Atlantic. The early 1640s also saw an overture by the French in Acadia to open trade with Massachusetts. By 1645, the General Court had ordered "that all ships that come for trading onely from other parts shall have free access to our harbors, & quiet riding there, & free to leave or depart without any molestation by us, they paying all such duties & charges required by law in the country as others do." Thus fifteen years after settlement, Massachusetts leaders declared the colony open to trade from the wide Atlantic world.
Along with merchants and sailors, Massachusetts also became home to laborers and Protestant refugees from Europe. As early as the 1640s and 1650s, non-Puritan laborers had been brought to Massachusetts from Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. Some of these laborers, such as ironworkers, possessed badly needed skills, but most were unskilled, filling a continuing need for general labor in the colony. Africans and "Spanish" Indians from South America also appeared in the colony, joining local Native Americans as a small part of the labor force in the late 1630s. In addition, after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, many French Protestant merchants, including Benjamin Faneuil and his brothers, came to New England. Huguenots, as fellow Calvinists, had religious doctrines compatible with Puritan beliefs. Their attachment to ceremony and the celebration of Christmas, however, rankled orthodox Puritans at times.
Such immigrants to Massachusetts brought important skills and contacts to the region. A chronic labor shortage existed in the colony throughout the first few decades; Puritan immigrants alone could not fill the need for skilled and unskilled workers. Ironworking in particular was not an industry that attracted many "godly" laborers, yet the Saugus ironworks and its non-Puritan workforce played an important role in the development of the local economy while also bringing diversity to the population. Later in the century, merchants from Scotland and France brought new trade networks to the colony. Scots had long enjoyed close ties to the Dutch, for instance, who dominated the carrying trade throughout Europe and the Atlantic. Scottish resident factors in the Netherlands tapped into Dutch overseas commerce, giving the English partners of Scottish merchants in New England access to these extensive commercial circles. Non-English and non-Puritan residents thus broadened the range of economic activity, both locally and in the Atlantic world, in ways not possibly by relying only on godly connections.
Non-English and non-Puritan laborers, merchants, and mariners lived throughout the region and, if they were settled residents and of European descent, could trade and hold property as equals with English colonials. In addition, the legal rights of some non-English settlers were defined in English law. Many French Protestants fled first to England and applied for naturalization or denization there, giving them at least partial rights of citizens in England and its colonies. Scots born after 1603, the year of James VI of Scotland’s accession to the throne of England, had been considered citizens of England and its colonies since 1608, a result of the legal ruling in Calvin’s Case, which declared that allegiance adhered to the sovereign, not the nation, and thus subjects of the monarch held rights in all the territories of that ruler. Scots and English, then, had reciprocal rights in England, Scotland, and their colonies. The Irish had rights in the English colonies due to their status as conquered subjects. According to Sir Edward Coke, the leading legal theorist in seventeenth-century England, although the Scots and Irish came by their rights in different ways, they could operate in the English colonies as legal subjects of England. In Massachusetts, therefore, as long as they lived and worked in accordance with the established laws and customs of the colony, Scots and Irish were, for the most part, "as good Englishmen." Some men, such as William Phips, could even envision incorporating the French-speaking residents of a French colony into the English colonial world.
This apparent equality with English residents in Massachusetts, however, did not necessarily extend to the franchise. Before 1647, freemen, those residents entitled to vote, had to be members of a Congregational church. The law was changed in 1647, allowing non-freemen to participate in town affairs, although with some significant restrictions. Non-church members had to be approved by the freemen of the town in order to gain the right to vote in local elections. The restoration of Charles II prompted further reforms, and in 1664, non-Congregational church members could become freemen and participate fully in colony affairs. Property restrictions attached to this law limited participation to wealthy families (primarily those of newly arrived merchants). In general, then, most of the residents discussed here only qualified to participate in town affairs. Only those few who joined the Congregational church, mostly merchants, gained full citizenship in Massachusetts during the Old Charter period. Nevertheless, many non-Puritan settlers did take part in local affairs, and colony voting restrictions did not hamper their acquisition of property or participation in commerce.
Even with legal and property rights, these non-English settlers did not become cultural "Englishmen." Many continued to see themselves as Scottish, Irish, or French, and perpetuated customs and traditions from home, while also constructing new identities that reflected their roles as colonials. Such residents added to the diversity and complexity of early Massachusetts society, and the communities and networks that they developed gave them roots in the colony and also brought the Bay Colony into a wider Atlantic world. These newcomers helped turn Massachusetts, among the most English of all the colonies, into an increasingly "British" space. In short, by the end of the seventeenth century, Massachusetts began to resemble societies in other parts of North America, composed of peoples from Britain-England, Scotland, and the Channel Islands-Ireland, and Continental Europe, and whose economies and politics were increasingly tied to England.
Scholars have long known that seventeenth-century Massachusetts, and New England in general, was not simply composed of English Puritans. Incomplete records, however, mean that accurate population statistics cannot be compiled for this period. It must also be recognized that occupational and religious "outsiders" compounded national and ethnic diversity, further complicating the picture. Therefore, a full accounting of diversity is not feasible, but a brief account of some of the primary groups of non-Puritans will give a sense of the mix of peoples present in early Massachusetts. An additional complication is that the numbers of non-English and non-Puritan residents increased over the course of the century; there were more in 1690 than in 1640. Yet, even as speculative as the numbers of these settlers may be, it is clear that "Puritan" Massachusetts had accommodated many non-Puritans since the beginning of European settlement.
Daniel Vickers notes at least four hundred seafaring families in Salem and Marblehead by 1690, and Richard Gildrie estimates that seamen or men of unknown occupation made up 46 percent of the two waterfront wards in Salem in 1690. Although the individuals counted in these estimates overlap, nonetheless families of fishers, sailors, and dockworkers composed a large proportion of the coastal population, particularly when these figures are extrapolated to the much larger port of Boston. These maritime workers were largely English and Jersey Islanders, but most cannot be associated with a Congregational church. Because complete records do not exist for most early churches, and those that do survive rarely mention people who attended regularly but were not members, we cannot be certain about church affiliation. As Christine Heyrman points out, however, two of the primary fishing ports in the colony, Gloucester and Marblehead, did not establish Congregational churches until 1664 and 1684, respectively. It would also have been difficult for maritime workers to attend services regularly. In addition, because fishermen and sailors lived much of their lives on the water, unable to properly observe the Sabbath and not under the watch of ministers and neighbors, they were believed to be under greater temptations with fewer restraints than land-based residents. Thus these families, regardless of nationality, were considered outsiders by their Puritan neighbors.
Merchants and their families are equally difficult to pin down. Although by the end of the century many merchants from old Puritan families still conducted business, new English, Scottish, French, and Channel Island commercial families had joined them. Men such as Richard Wharton, John Borland, Benjamin Faneuil, and Philip English had close connections to fellow merchants in their home countries, and they married New England women, thus creating an interlocking network of commercial families throughout the English Atlantic world. These marriages between established families and new immigrants make a clear distinction between old and new mercantile families hard to discern. Yet when considering only unmarried merchants and those who moved to Essex and Suffolk counties with families already, non-Puritan and non-English commercial families numbered in the hundreds by the 1690s.
Many other non-Puritan immigrants arrived in New England during the last half of the seventeenth century. Several hundred Huguenot refugees settled in an agricultural community near Worcester, and French merchants gravitated to the port village of Boston, where they had long-standing ties to the town’s commercial community. Many other French Protestants, merchants and farmers alike, went to Plymouth and Rhode Island. Huguenots in Rhode Island faced violence and severe discrimination, partly due to an ongoing land dispute between Connecticut and Rhode Island. When these families were forced out of their new homes, many resettled in Massachusetts and New York.
In addition, between five hundred and seven hundred Scottish, Irish, and Jersey laborers came to the coastal counties of Massachusetts in the third quarter of the century. In the early 1650s, Scots captured by the English at the battles of Dunbar and Worcester were deported to all the colonies. New England received several hundred, mostly sent over by John Becx, a principal investor in the Company of Undertakers of the Ironworks in New England. Becx and the Undertakers were searching for a cheap labor force for the Saugus ironworks, and when the English government allowed them to acquire more men than were necessary for the company’s immediate needs, they sold the excess captives to local landowners and craftsmen. Many Scots also went to sawmills in New Hampshire and southern Maine. Irish captives began to appear in Massachusetts around the same time as the Scots. The majority of these men and women went to the Chesapeake colonies and the West Indies, but many ended up in the northern colonies. Laborers from the Channel Islands began to arrive in the late 1660s and early 1670s, brought to Massachusetts by Jersey merchants to work in the fish trade and as household servants. These laborers were concentrated in Essex County towns, although a few also appeared in Boston and Springfield.
Along with non-Puritans of European descent, approximately eight hundred Africans lived in Massachusetts by 1700. Africans appear in the records of Massachusetts from a very early date. William Wood, in his 1634 pamphlet New England’s Prospect, notes the presence of at least one African, and John Josselyn, in the first of his two voyages to New England, describes his encounters with three Africans owned by Samuel Maverick of Noddles Island in 1639. In addition, Emmanuel Downing wrote to his brother-in-law John Winthrop in 1645 that a war with the Narragansett Indians would provide captives to exchange for African slaves in the West Indies, which he believed would greatly benefit Massachusetts. Thus, some Massachusetts residents saw African slavery as a positive solution to the general labor shortage in the colony. Blacks apparently were treated much like European servants in the early years; for example, in 1641, a "Negro maid" of Israel Stoughton of Dorchester became a church member. This status changed by the mid-1650s, when blacks and Indians were barred from training with the militias, although non-English European servants continued to be trusted with weapons. By the end of the century, many of the leading families and merchants in Boston and Salem owned African slaves. Samuel Sewall, the prominent Puritan merchant, judge, and diarist, discusses many Africans in Boston throughout his diary. Even though Africans composed less than 2 percent of the population of Massachusetts by 1700, they were not an uncommon sight on the streets of the larger towns.
Hundreds of Christian Native Americans also lived within the colony’s boundaries, along with thousands of "wild" Indians on the margins of English settlements. Devastating plagues in the mid-1610s decimated the Indian population in eastern Massachusetts, and so settlers in Plymouth in the 1620s and the Bay Colony in the 1630s faced fewer immediate threats from Native Americans than did their counterparts in the Chesapeake. Plymouth’s attacks on the Indians at Wessagusset in 1623 and the Pequot War undertaken by Massachusetts in 1636-37 caused local Indians to realize that the English were warlike aggressors. Many Indians therefore tried to maintain a peaceful coexistence with these unpredictable strangers. Puritans initially made few attempts to convert the Indians, aside from the efforts of minister John Eliot of Roxbury and Thomas Mayhew, Jr., of Martha’s Vineyard, even though this was cited as a reason to establish the colony. Nevertheless, by the third quarter of the seventeenth century, Massachusetts had established fourteen "praying towns" of Christian Indians. Many Massachusetts settlers never quite trusted the sincerity of these conversions, however, and Christian Indians were badly mistreated during King Philip’s War in 1675-76. Native Americans, then, Christian or not, were always seen as outsiders in Massachusetts society.
This occupational, national, and ethnic diversity was compounded by religious differences. Although Congregationalism was the established church structure, by the 1660s Essex County claimed a small but highly visible core of Quaker converts. Quakers had appeared in Massachusetts in the late 1650s, only a few years after the sect had formed in Wales and western England. A product of poverty in these areas and the social and religious upheaval of the civil war years, the anticlerical and individualistic tendencies inherent in Quakerism posed a threat to the educated ministry and Congregational tenets of Puritanism. The early radicalism of the sect also threatened to undermine the established churches of Massachusetts. Thus when English Quakers appeared in the colony, they were quickly ushered out and warned not to return. Local adherents of the new religion, many of whom converted from orthodox Puritanism, were hauled before the Essex County court, fined, and forbidden to meet for religious services outside the local churches. Persecution continued for the next several years; Essex County Quakers were imprisoned, whipped, and banished until 1659, when Massachusetts executed two "traveling Friends." In 1661, Mary Dyer, a longtime resident of Massachusetts who converted to Quakerism early, and William Leddra, an English Quaker, were also executed. After these deaths, and with the knowledge that further persecution of Quakers would not be tolerated by the newly restored Stuart monarchy, Massachusetts leaders grudgingly accepted the presence of Quakers, although they attempted to keep the sect from attracting new converts. The radicalism of early Quakers gradually diminished through the seventeenth century, and although Massachusetts Quakers slowly became more accepted in society, they always remained slightly suspect in the eyes of their Puritan neighbors.
Baptist congregations also began to appear throughout the region, establishing their first church in Charlestown in 1665. Although not welcome in Massachusetts, Baptists suffered less persecution than did Quakers. Many early Baptists were members in good standing of Congregational churches who had developed questions about the efficacy of infant baptism. In many ways, Baptists simply took traditional Calvinist beliefs to their logical extreme, and thus many traditional Puritans viewed them as legitimate. Dissention over the Halfway Covenant of 1662, wherein children of Congregational church members were brought under church discipline even though they had not experienced conversion, also made Baptist practices more acceptable. Thus, although not fully trusted, Baptists were not as outcast as other religious dissidents in early Massachusetts.
The lines between English and non-English, and Puritan and non-Puritan cannot always be clearly drawn. The categories of occupation, nationality, ethnicity, and religion frequently overlapped. Most religious dissidents were English, for example, and many Scots and Huguenots practiced religions not widely divergent from Puritanism. Yet both of the latter groups were clearly outsiders in terms of nationality and therefore slightly suspect, at least for a few years after their initial immigration. "Praying Indians" were rarely trusted, in spite of their religious conversion and attempts to live in agricultural villages as prescribed by the Puritan leadership. Settlers in marginal occupations, such as fishermen and ironworkers, came from many national and ethnic groups. How and why these peoples settled into the larger community and became accepted by it differs from group to group. A complex society derives from many roots, and describing the development of that society cannot be attributed simply to religious or national compatibility. Some French settlers were welcomed because of their religion, whereas some English settlers were not welcomed, also due to their religion. Praying Indians should have been accepted because of their religion but, due to their ethnicity, they were not. The Scots and Irish legally had rights in the English colonies as subjects of the Stuart kings but were not necessarily trusted as residents of Massachusetts. Skilled workers and general laborers were almost always accepted as residents regardless of nationality (excluding, of course, Africans and Native Americans) because the colony needed them economically. Again, clear distinctions cannot be drawn; accommodation came from a convergence of reasons. Therefore, by the end of the seventeenth century, Massachusetts society cannot be described simply in terms of English and Puritan.
Not all "strangers"-a term used to describe new or temporary residents, people not yet known to the larger community-affected the development of society. Many left the colony, either voluntarily or through banishment, and thus did not play a role in its development. Thomas Morton of Merrymount, whose May Day revels and competition in the fur trade vexed Plymouth leaders, and Samuel Gorton, whose religious beliefs undermined the emerging doctrine of Massachusetts, were captured and sent to England by the Puritan governments of these colonies. Both men tried to undermine the colonies once back in England but were not very successful at implementing changes. Anne Hutchinson and Roger Williams created dissention in Massachusetts and took many followers with them to new settlements in Rhode Island, yet after their banishments they played little role in Massachusetts. Robert Child-medical doctor, scientist, and friend of John Winthrop, Jr.-also threatened to undermine the "New England Way," as well as the authority of the magistrates, by arguing for a more Presbyterian style of church governance and threatening to appeal his case to England. Once again, after leaving the colony, Child had little influence on its development, although he remained in contact with Winthrop and was an investor in the Saugus ironworks in the early 1640s and other ventures undertaken by Winthrop.
Many non-Puritan Europeans, however, especially economic migrants, did remain in the colony-moving from strangers to settled residents-but their contributions to the development of Massachusetts society have rarely been considered. These inhabitants generally have been seen as either marginal to the colony or as assimilating into the dominant Puritan society. Clifford Shipton stated in 1936 "that the bulk of the immigrants before 1687 were absorbed into the Puritan society, a conclusion supported by the lists of church members." More recently, Stephen Innes argues that unruly ironworkers at the Saugus ironworks in the 1640s and 1650s were soon "tamed" by Puritan discipline. David Thomas Konig contends that the "Scots and the Irish occasionally clashed with the English population, but they migrated there in such small numbers that their adjustment was relatively easy." In his study of the Huguenot emigration to North America, Jon Butler asserts that "Boston’s relative homogeneity in religion and nationality may have smothered the small refugee population’s cohesion and sustained resistance to conformity." The one ethnic group acknowledged to have retained their customs and community within Puritan-dominated Massachusetts was Jersey Islanders, whom Konig places in opposition to their English neighbors. Although Jerseyans did enter into many disputes with their neighbors and resorted to legal action quickly to resolve personal and commercial problems, these issues can obscure the extent to which they participated in Massachusetts society.
The standard dichotomy of marginalization or assimilation does not adequately explain the role of non-English and non-Puritan residents in early Massachusetts society. Some blended into Puritan-dominated communities fairly quickly, whereas others kept their distance to a greater or lesser extent. English and Welsh ironworkers fall at one end of this spectrum, and Jersey Islanders fall at the other end. The earliest ironworkers frequently married into middling families and obtained land, but Jersey immigrants married among themselves and retained a distinctive language and culture throughout the seventeenth century. Members of both groups, however, participated in community affairs and considered Massachusetts their home. Non-Puritans, as with the more frequently studied Puritan settlers, participated in several communities of interest based on religion, nationality, craft, trade, and place of residence, and identified themselves by these associations as the context warranted.
To assert the existence of such interlocking social ties does not imply that non-Puritan and non-English communities developed quickly, easily, or without friction. Although early Massachusetts leaders envisioned a settlement dominated by the godly, they quickly realized that they needed strangers. During the 1630s, Puritans who settled in New England knew that they could not isolate themselves from the world. Many migrants saw themselves as the "saving remnant" who would bring reformed religion back to England after God’s wrath had cleansed the land. Puritans in New England thus watched events in England and Europe closely, and considered themselves part of the international community of reformed Protestants. Puritan ideology also insisted that the godly must struggle with temptation rather than hide from it; believers needed to remain engaged with the world.
Engagement cannot be equated, however, with tolerance. The leaders of Massachusetts tried to control who settled in their colony, and expelled heterodox settlers who refused to accept the developing status quo, such as Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson, both of whom refused to muzzle their ideas for the sake of conformity. Nathaniel Ward put this idea most succinctly in 1647 by writing, "Familists, Antinomians, Anabaptists, and other such Enthusiasts, shall have free Liberty to keep away from us." Other dissenters, such as William Pynchon of Springfield, were reprimanded for their beliefs only after publishing pamphlets that contradicted orthodox beliefs. Pynchon’s tract The Meritorious Price of Our Redemption argues against Trinitarian Christianity, asserting that Christ was human rather than part of the godhead. The Massachusetts General Court deemed the pamphlet heretical and ordered that it be burned. Pynchon left the colony voluntarily in 1652 rather than retract his pamphlet and submit to official censure. Many others whose opinions fell within an acceptable range of ideas never faced public humiliation. Political dissenters, such as Robert Child and his supporters, also troubled the colony, as did unruly servants and laborers. Yet religious dissenters helped define orthodoxy, whereas servants and laborers, godly and not, contributed to economic development. In many ways, strangers and dissenters shaped early Massachusetts.
Thus, by the end of the seventeenth century, a complex society had developed in Massachusetts that was neither strictly Puritan nor English. Non-English and non-Puritan laborers and servants, although lacking political authority, had contributed to the construction of the social web, and merchants brought overseas contacts spanning the Atlantic. Although there was less ethnic and racial diversity than in New York, Pennsylvania, or Virginia, Massachusetts society began to resemble those in other parts of the emerging British Atlantic world.
This study began, as have so many other books, as a paper in a graduate research seminar. At that time, I became fascinated by the presence of the Scots and Irish in early Massachusetts and wondered why Scottish and Irish prisoners-men and women captured and forcibly deported from their homelands-stayed in Massachusetts. Many, of course, did not have the resources to leave after their terms of service, and the question became how they adapted to life in Massachusetts. I found that, like other early modern people, they developed communities and social networks that provided stability and opportunity in an English colony. Social relationships were more fluid than is normally associated with this period, even in a fairly homogeneous colony like Massachusetts. Early modern people coped with unfamiliar situations by forming networks and communities of interest that connected them to one another and to the larger world, rather than walling themselves off. Such communities can be found throughout the Atlantic world anyplace where "strangers" moved into a settled population. Although these networks have generally been associated with merchants, this study shows that smaller, more localized communities developed as well. These social networks were also the basis for the expansion of Atlantic commerce and communication.
-English and non-Puritan residents by searching through court records for Essex and Suffolk counties; the published volumes as well as the documents in the Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, the Massachusetts Archives, and the Massachusetts Historical Society; and individual town records within these counties. Salem and Boston have the most extensive records available; I also examined the Middlesex County records at the Massachusetts Archives, although they are not as well indexed as those for Essex and Suffolk counties, and so were much more difficult to search thoroughly. I found names as well through the Ironworks Papers in the Baker Library at Harvard University and membership lists of the Scots’ Charitable Society (SCS). Individual town histories produced in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were also very useful. The only ship passenger list that exists is for the Scottish prisoners deported to Massachusetts in 1652 after the Battle of Worcester. I did not use surname analysis, although I checked in the indexes and finding aids every name that sounded as though it had a Scottish, Irish, or French derivation. I also kept notes on residents closely associated with known strangers, although I did not include that person or family in this study unless I could positively identify them as non-Puritan or non-English.
The book is divided into five chapters and a conclusion that each examine different groups of settlers: ironworkers, farmers and agricultural laborers, and merchants. The first chapter lays out the historiographical and contextual background for the topic. After that, the book moves to case studies of specific groups of settlers. Because British communities developed out of the need for labor, the second chapter examines laborers and their networks, focusing primarily on the Saugus ironworkers. The earliest ironworkers came from England and Wales, recruited by John Winthrop, Jr., and the Undertakers of the Ironworks in New England. Most brought necessary skills to the colony and so were accepted, even though Massachusetts authorities were wary of their poor reputations. As the costs of running the ironworks increased, the Undertakers acquired Scottish captives. These men were largely unskilled, but also provided an important labor force in the region. Outsiders in several different ways, these ironworkers bonded with one another, maintaining relationships even as they moved around Massachusetts.
The third chapter looks at agricultural laborers as they developed communities in the commercial farming districts of northern Essex County. These residents were more grounded in a place than were the ironworkers, yet they did not develop traditional village communities. They lived on the margins of settled villages and enjoyed wide-ranging connections to other non-Puritan residents in the county. Similar communities appear to have existed in Suffolk and Middlesex counties, but the court records are far less complete than those in Essex County, making it much more difficult to trace such settlers in these areas.
The fourth chapter explores transatlantic commercial networks developed by merchants after the Restoration. English, Scottish, French, and Jersey merchants began to expand their ties throughout the Atlantic world, operating within British and Atlantic networks. These merchants frequently traded with countrymen, yet certainly not exclusively. Although these networks are better known than those developed by laborers and farmers, they were very similar in connecting people through nationality, profession, and kinship (although the commercial networks did cover greater distances, involve more people, and wield greater political and economic clout).
The fifth chapter looks more closely at the ways in which non-English residents of Massachusetts kept their national identities and perpetuated traditional cultures as part of a developing British culture. Explicitly national organizations, such as the Scots’ Charitable Society or the French Church in Boston, were ways to associate with one’s heritage and, at the same time, construct new "national" identities in the colonies. Other residents continued to follow traditional patterns of subsistence, such as living on small plots of land and grazing livestock, and moving from place to place as opportunities shifted. Such patterns added to the diversity of Massachusetts and, when combined through kinship and social ties, allowed new traditions and new identities to develop. This chapter also examines the friction between English residents and their non-English neighbors.
The conclusion moves the British and Atlantic networks discussed in the previous chapters into the eighteenth century, examining the social and political consequences of these communities. We find that organizations indicating high social status in Massachusetts, such as the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company, included members of many backgrounds. At the same time, loyalties to non-English identities had not decreased. The Scots’ Charitable Society continued, with many second- and third-generation members who were born in Massachusetts and were also members of the Artillery Company. The elite members of the SCS also actively recruited new immigrants and laborers to their ranks. Politically, non-Puritan residents of Massachusetts were represented throughout the spectrum. Some men supported closer dependence on England, favoring royal government and courting royal patronage, and some supported the continuance of local control. Many apparently remained aloof from political wrangles. In other words, Massachusetts society was becoming British in the eighteenth-century meaning of the term as citizens of Britain, and developing the provincial identity that has been so thoroughly explored by scholars in recent years. But this identity did not develop solely from English political and economic agitation, but also out of the multiple identities that had developed in British communities of the seventeenth century.
© 2009 Penn State University
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